Kitchener-Waterloo

Cambridge seeks details over application to process nuclear waste in city

Cambridge city staff say they are asking for more information about an application by Aecon Nuclear to process low-level nuclear waste at its Cambridge facility. The company says the process is highly regulated and 'does not create any risk of a potential liquid spill.'

'I don’t think it’s an appropriate area for that kind of activity,' city councillor says

Aecon Nuclear has applied to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to process low-level waste at its Cambridge facility. The company says there is no risk of spills from the process, but the city says it will be seeking more information on the application. (Google Streetview)

City staff in Cambridge say they are seeking clarification on an application by Aecon Nuclear to process nuclear waste in its Cambridge facility.

Aecon says it has applied to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) "to manage tools and components that have a low-level of surface contamination."

The company noted the commission regulates how low-level nuclear waste is identified.

"This is not subjective and such waste does not shift levels," the company said in an email to CBC Kitchener-Waterloo. "The type of processing which would be performed under the license application does not create any risk of a potential liquid spill."

Aecon says it has played a "critical role" in the refurbishment of Ontario Power Generation's Darlington Nuclear Generating Station and Bruce Power's major component replacement program.

The company said if the application is approved, it will "provide local economic development opportunities to support the safe, reliable supply of affordable clean energy to Ontarians."

City has 'a series of questions'

In a statement, the city said staff learned of the application through media reports. The application was first reported by the Cambridge Times newspaper.

Staff were not officially notified about the application and they have reached out to the commission "to confirm the application and to seek further information and clarification on the licensing approval process."

"Staff have asked CNSC a series of questions, including if there will be public consultation and if the city will be able to provide comments under the federal process. We have asked specifically about potential public risk factors.  Staff are also in the process of arranging a meeting with Aecon officials to more fully understand their plans.

The Aecon facility is in Coun. Nicholas Ermeta's ward and he says he's hearing concerns about the application. He said there are many schools in the area and families living nearby.

"Based on the people who have contacted me, and there's been quite a few, there's been no support. Everyone's concerned about it," he said.

Ermeta said the area where Aecon's facility is located is a wellhead protection area.

"I don't think it's an appropriate area for that kind of activity," he said. He added he has no doubt that Aecon has an excellent track record.

"I'm concerned that there could be an accident and I don't want to risk that in any shape or form," Ermeta said.

Commission staff reviewing application

The commission says it received an application from Aecon on July 16, 2019 and it's currently going through a technical review by staff.

In a statement, the commission said because the proposed activity in the application "is low risk" the licensing decision would be made by a designated officer, not the commission. Public input is not sought and information about the application is not published on the commission's website, but the commission would "welcome an invitation to host an information session with the community and elected officials."

"Regardless of the level of risk associated with a proposed project, there is no compromise on the level of rigour in staff's technical assessment. Following their review and assessment of the application, [commission] staff will make recommendations related to licensing to the designated officer who ultimately makes the decision on whether to grant the licence," the statement said.

"Nuclear safety is the CNSC's focus and as the nuclear regulator, it would not approve and issue a licence unless it was safe to do so."

Corrections

  • The date the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission received the application is July 16, 2019. An earlier version of this story did not make it clear which year the application was made.
    Aug 10, 2020 9:39 AM ET

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